Tom Humberstone


horror month - day 13

Blood on Satan's Claw (1971)

"How do we know, sir, what is dead? You come from the city, you cannot know the ways of the country."

Quick summary: When a deformed skull is unearthed in a rural village in 18th century England, various members of the community exhibit signs of demonic possession, witchcraft, and grow fur.

You could argue this film is a prequel to something like The Borderlands which has on the margins of its story the "folk horror" origins of Blood on Satan's Claw. It'd be nice to think the church in the 2014 film was built on the same ground.

I find paganistic folk horror more frightening, I think, than Christianity-based horror because at least with something like The Exorcist the existence of the Devil suggests the existence of God. These are more uncaring, selfish gods. Gods who demand sacrifices and whose own agendas are unclear. As with the nihilistic cosmic abyss of Lovecraft - humanity are at best, pawns.

The film was partly inspired by the cult of the Manson family. The Judge, who takes it upon himself in eradicating the demonic presence, is supposed to represent the victory of atheism and enlightenment. Seeing as the only women with any power in the film are part of the cult, you could also read it as the overzealous, sexually repressed patriarchy crushing that which it does not understand.

This was originally intended to be a portmanteau movie of three separate stories linked by the unearthed remains, but they were eventually combined into one narrative.

Let it be known, Linda Hayden's painted on eyebrows in the second half of the film are awesome.

Watched the film with friends and a bottle of wine. We found our level early on when we all started giggling at the DoP's name - Dick Bush. That immaturity aside, it was beautifully shot. And I really enjoyed this.

We also watched:

Lair of the White Worm (1988)

"I love Angus' hole. It's rather fascinating."

Quick summary: Peter Capaldi and Hugh Grant face off against Amanda Donohoe's vampiric pagan snake goddess with a phallus fixation.

First off, the DoP is Dick Bush again!

This is based on a Bram Stoker story - I genuinely had no idea he had written much more than Dracula but a quick google once again reveals my ignorance.

Other connections to the previous film beyond Dick Bush: lots of nudity, paganism, and an opening in which something is unearthed. But the similarities stop there. This is very silly, pretty sexist and I spent a large portion of the movie marvelling at Donohoe's great Cruella De Vil impression and commitment to the insane number of things asked of her in this film. The dream sequences are enjoyably bonkers and OTT, the snake-fang make-up is actually really effective, and it's pretty fun watching Capaldi's character get angrier and angrier as the film goes on.

By the end, maybe it was the wine, but I was oddly charmed by the insanity of this.

Peter Capaldi charms a vampiric snake policeman by playing the bagpipes and then volleys a grenade from under his kilt at a Volkswagon Beetle painted to look like a giant worm. If that doesn't make you slightly love this film, you're dead inside.

"Dionin was a pagan snake god." "Why didn't you say so before?"

I found this fun "My Guilty Pleasure" article about the film on The Guardian.

It feels like the Doctor Who episode - The Vampires of Venice - was vaguely nodding to this film (vampiric fang make-up, tie-in to Roman history), but can't find anything online to back that up.

Tonight: Think it might be Jug Face/The Pit (2013) and Come Back To Me (2014) this evening.